Kyle Kratky

recorded in St. Louis, MO

 

Kyle Kratky

My name is Kyle Kratky and I live in Belleville, Illinois, but I would say that my writing community, or art community, is St. Louis. I grew up in Belleville, all my life until I was 18, and then I moved to Chicago and I went to school there at Columbia College and I studied theatre and then after I finished college, I worked there. And I worked in Chicago in theatre for several years doing solo performance and stage managing.  I have a problem with acting like someone who’s not me. It’s something I can’t do [laughs]. I insist in all situations that I play myself, when I’m acting. So, I had some health issues and family issues, so I moved back home to be with my parents, and I have lots and brothers and sisters, we’re a big giant, well, not giant, but for just two people living alone, I was the youngest of many kids, so, for just them, it was big. So I moved back to be with them, and also to pay off student debt [laughs].  So that’s where I’ve been. I lived in St. Louis for about a year, but otherwise I’ve lived in Belleville for the past three or four years now. I love this area, I really do. There are a lot of people who are like, “Oh God, I can’t wait to get away and I don’t want to come back,” and I certainly want to see at least more of our country. I haven’t been to the desert. I’ve been to the mountains once. I’ve never been up north anywhere, really, except the Dells in Wisconsin. So I would really like to see more of our country, and I would want to live in other places too, but I think I would really, in the end, like to settle here. I love Southern Illinois. It’s hilly, it’s green, you know, the glaciers stopped in Southern Illinois, basically, so everything remained hilly and lovely as opposed to flat, stupid farmland. Which is still really pretty to see for a little bit, but to live in is boring to me. I love hiking and camping and I love canoeing. I actually just went kayaking for the first time, last weekend, and I freaking loved it.


The Knox Writers’ House

It’s great, right?


Kratky

And now I’m definitely going to buy a kayak for sure. But it’s hard to say what informs me, as a writer, from those things, but I would love to try writing a novel someday, I would love to write prose. I’ve thought about writing short stories from my life, like kind of memoir-style, but then I read people like David Sedaris who do it so well –and not just because he’s funny, but because his work really is beautiful –that’s what’s tricky about it, it comes off as comedy but there’s quite a lot of great human emotion going on in there –he does it so well, and then I read it and think, Well fuck, I don’t have to write anymore. That’s my hiccup that I always hit. But most of what I write is solo performance for the stage, that kind of thing. I’ve been trying to get on This American Life for two years. I have an ongoing effort. Actually now, I started a blog about it, and Ira Glass reads it, which is really exciting, and I found out the This American Life staff, I think, might have place bets on me.


KWH

Yeah, we heard about that.


Kratky

Yeah, I got a message on my blog from one of the This American Life contributors saying, I places 50 bucks on you, don’t fail me now.


KWH

That’s awesome.


Kratky

Yeah.


KWH

So what are you trying to do?


Kratky

In a year, I’m creating three, what I’m calling, attempts to get on This American Life. Three pieces for submission.


KWH

Is that how This American Life normally works?


Kratky

Yeah, they take submissions, and they have producers on staff too. And a producer could create a story or a producer could find someone to tell their story. A producer could go, right now, to New Orleans and talk to people about the oil, and end up creating a story from that, and you might never hear the producer’s voice. Or a producer might be like David Sedaris, who basically writes essays that he turns into This American Life pieces. I’d really love to be a This American Life producer. That’s sort of one of my big dreams. But I’d have to live in New York to do that. Which is okay by me. So that’s the kind of thing I’m really interested in. I love storytelling. That’s my big thing in life. I’m very agnostic, and not agnostic like, “None of it’s true,” I’m not an atheist. I waver more on the side of, for a week, I think probably Jesus is real, then for a week I think maybe the Roman gods were real, you know what I mean? My feeling is I think it’s really arrogant to say what is true about whatever comes after what I experience right now. I think it’s kind of crazy and arrogant to say, “Oh, I know that, after I die, this.” So, the only think in our lives that has real truth is human-to-human interaction and stories. So that’s sort of the driving force behind everything I do. When I do solo performance, I’m not – When I say I’m a solo performer, people are always like “Oh…” like they think I get naked and pour chocolate sauce on myself and then eat human hair and then sit and stare at you for ten minutes and then cook a plastic army man in a skillet and shout. They think of performance art. And what I do is very, very – I love to sit on a stool and tell stories from my life.  I just did one recently, I felt bad for writing it, but it turned out really well, where I compared a friend of mine from college to HIV [laughs]. So the piece was this sort of comedic story about this guy who truly, actually appeared benign, seemed like a nice guy, and turned out to be a total virus to our friend group and tried to destroy it. For no reason. No one said anything or did anything bad to him, and I was thinking about that. I’ve learned a lot in the past year or two about HIV and AIDS. I go to training sessions with Red Cross and learn all about the virus and how it works and the details and everything, and I realized that the progression of this guy was exactly what HIV does to the human body. So that’s one I wrote. And I had a slide show for the first time, so I had a really schlocky Power Point presentation with little facts and the cell and all that that stuff, and I would point to one and say, “So this is my friend Scott invading the friend cell.” So that’s what I like to do. I love looking people in the eyes and telling them stories. And that’s where my writing comes from. And I feel very self-conscious about it, because it’s not what I would call literary, except for on the rare occasion. It’s more conversational, even though I do definitely write it as literature. It’s funny, whenever it goes really well, people afterwards say, “Wow, that’s like standup, you just sit there and talk.” And they don’t know the process, so I don’t begrudge them anything, but it’s sort of frustrating to hear that because I do actually sit and agonize for hours and hours over word choice and tempo and rhythm and structure and all those things. And I have a few friends who are what I would call whetstones, they’re the stones that sharpen my blade, I sharpen my blade on them, one of them, all the time, I frequently send her my rough drafts of solo pieces which are like 15 pages long and need to be like, five, because she’s a killer editor, and she’s superb at saying, “I know you, and I know that this paragraph really needs to be near the end,” and she’s 100% right, and she’s really, really good about it.


KWH

That’s awesome. Was she a college friend?


Kratky

No, she’s actually a high school friend. I’ve known her for like 12 or 14 years now, and she is a killer editor. If I ever wrote a novel, she’d be the first one I’d send the full draft to. So I agonize over it a lot, so I guess it’s very literary, I probably sell myself short on that. But to me, it’s just so conversational when I do it. Because I also like, in the moment, to be able to change. If I’m talking to a crowd and they really seem to be digging the jokes, I might throw another comedic thing in. And If I’m talking and people seem really somber, I might even drop something funny from another part.

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